AB2 - Review

A review of Awkward Bastards ABSENCE by Poppy Noor.

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When I arrive at the Awkward Bastards second symposium I am not sure what to expect. The event, hosting radical artists across two days promises to be one filled with diversity and difference. But as a non-white woman who spent my teenage years living in homeless hostels, I never know what to expect when people say the word 'diversity' anymore. It feels like a word that's always said to me – normally by someone who is middle-class, white, and probably male. But I don't feel like a particularly 'diverse' person, I just feel that I am normal and I want to be represented.

Lewis Davey, an artist who stands for a 5-minute rant at the end of the day, sums this feeling up perfectly and with brilliant humour. He is talking about an American Footballer, who was criticised in the States for not standing when the National Anthem was played,

"It's just some guy's favourite song.” He retorts. "Trap Queen by Fetty Wap is my favourite song. Imagine if I asked you to stand every time I played it!"

The line is funny because, for those of you who don't know, Fetty Wap is an African-American rapper who is blind in one eye, has tattoos on his face, and sings about "getting high with [his] baby, and "getting fly with [his] baby." Just thinking about all of the people that I so frequently see at galleries, with their knee-length skirts and stiff-upper lips having to stand to that song makes me equal measures giddy and uneasy. But of course, he has a broader point: this is what being forced to try to appreciate art that wasn't made for you is like.

It's something that Frances Morris, who refers to the Tate as “warm” and “safe” in her keynote speech could do with remembering. When artist Jamila Johnson-Small calls out these comments in a panel discussion for performing  “illusory false empathy, which perpetuates erasure” she reminds me that a lack of diversity is about so much more than just being underrepresented. When I go to the Tate, I don't just feel underrepresented: I feel as if my culture, and the people I grew up around simply didn't exist at all. The panel brings to light how discussion around diversity in these spaces is so often more than just complacent – it also sustains the narratives that prevent inclusivity from happening.

Diverse art means the ability to inform and educate. It draws us away from seeing people, multi-faceted as they are, in the singular boxes which mainly act to undermine those who do not fit into the pre-packaged, heterosexual, able-bodied, white form of 'normal' that we are constantly fed. But at Awkward Bastards, I realise how we can all too easily fall into the trap of viewing art through the lenses of familiarity and privilege. When artists take to the stage to lament the lack of disabled artists' works displayed across the country, I realise how little I have questioned the fact that rarely have I seen such art displayed outside of hospital walls and school hallways. “My art is not therapy" says Sarah Watson, a multi-media artist with a learning disability, “If it was therapy, I'd be paying for it. This is my job."

Trite arguments about simply choosing “the best” artists are ripped to shreds by panellists on the day. One ranter scorns the official artwork commissioned for the Paralympic Games, a colourful drawing of Big Ben by an able-bodied artist from the States. “What does it even represent?” she asks. What's most shocking about this is how much good quality art could have been commissioned in its place. When I see Sue Austin's "Deep Sea Diving" installation about life in a wheelchair, it isn't magical because she's in a wheelchair. It's magical because Austin conjures up emotions, insights and sensations in me that I could have never brought up myself. When she presents on how 3D technology could meaningfully bring art to audiences otherwise unable to access it, it is innovative because she speaks from a place of understanding what it is like to have that access so frequently blocked from your life. It's not the checkbox of diversity that feels good about the event, it is how diversity is facilitating me to understand and think about things in a way that I hadn't before. Isn't that what art is supposed to be about, after all?

At the end of the symposium, I think about how I have felt most validated at times when I have felt reflected in art and broader culture. It feels like being written into a story that you long knew you should have been a part of. But reflecting on the performances which came from experiences most different to mine, I realise that reading someone else's story can, in the end, be so much more interesting than reading your own.

On the Verge

A one-day conference on Learning Disability and the Main Stage...

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How do we open up our main stages to Learning Disabled performers?

How do we build structures of support that encourage Learning Disabled Artists to flourish?

How do we ensure Learning Disability is central to the diversity debate?

Are we 'on the verge' of a breakthrough?

Confirmed speakers include Lyn Gardner (The Guardian), Erica Whyman (Director, RSC), Charlotte Bevan (Director of Creative Diversity, National Theatre), Henry Normal (Writer and Comedian), Sarah Gordy (Performer), Richard Hayhow and BecauseWeCanCanCan and Ben Pettit-Wade (Hijinx Theatre). 

Who is it for? 

  • Artists with experience of living with Learning Disability
  • Professionals working in those contexts
  • Programmers interested in their diversity reach#
  • Arts workers working in other Special Needs settings
  • Casting Directors
  • Bridge Organisations
  • Heads of Departments and managers from all areas of expertise, e.g. front of house, marketing, administration
  • Arts Policy makers and influencers.  

£75 for first delegate.
£50 for subsequent delegates from the same organisation.
£50 concessions.

(Includes a ticket for the Relaxed Performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on Mon 3 July).

Book now by calling Ticket Sales on 0844 338 5000

Senior Producer role

Do you want to become IBT's next Senior Producer?

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We're seeking a dynamic Producer with the vision and skills to develop and deliver our varied artistic programmes.

Working with exceptional artists and partners you'll become part of our dedicated and innovative team to create unusual experiences of the highest quality.

Please share this with anyone you think might want to apply.

Application Deadline: Friday 2nd June, 5pm.

Click here to apply and to find out more.

Extra-ordinary bodies

Coming to Telford this August!

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The active and creative communities team are looking to recruit 24 local people aged 18+ to create two groups of 12 participants who will each spend three days working with extra-ordinary bodies.

www.extraordinarybodies.org.uk

We are looking to recruit an even split of both people with a recognised disability and  those who do not perceive themselves as having any specific needs. Also on our radar are people who may have ended up isolated through circumstances life has thrown at them. 

The theme being explored through circus and conversation  is what does it means to be alive in 2017.

This  project is running across the country with one of the UKs strongest outdoor theatre companies who are seeking to inform a show they are developing for 2018. The project will also highlight what the talents and aspirations are of those who take part. We were approached  in part because of record in community arts, events and our track record in engaging creatively with people with disabilities.

We are seeking people from all walks of life to take part and would like a 50/50 split of those with and without  disability.

Young Disabled Artists Opportunity

The WHY? Festival...

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Please find below a link to the fabulous video explaining all about Permission To Perfrom and 'All The Things We Could Have Been' as a development opportunity and part of The Why? Festival:

https://youtu.be/t43zugoozIM

Shape Arts

Updates from Shape Arts recent mailing, including new grants!

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Brand New R&D Grants from NDACA!

Applications are now open for the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA)'s new Research and Development mentoring grants for emerging disabled artists!

NDACA, the Disability Arts Movement heritage project delivered by ourselves, is inviting UK-based emerging disabled artists to apply for one of four Research and Development Grants, which include mentoring by a key artist involved in the 'Golden Age' of the Disability Arts Movement. Applications are open to artists working in any art form, and they do not have to match the practice of their selected mentor.

Artists are invited to submit a personal statement about their artistic practice and a proposal of how they wish to make use of the grant award to us by 30 June 2017. 

For further information on how to apply, please visit: www.shapearts.org.uk/news/ndaca-rnd-applications

 

Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary: Oliver MacDonald at Turner Contemporary:

Join us for a free artist talk by our Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary (ARMB) recipient Oliver MacDonald in the Clore Learning Studio. On his penultimate day at Turner Contemporary, Oliver will be discussing his ongoing artistic practice and work, and reflecting on his three month residency, followed by an audience Q&A session. 

Tickets are free, but places are limited so please click here to let us know you're coming.

You can also introduce yourself to Oliver's work by reading our five minute Q&A blog with him at: www.shapearts.org.uk/blog/five-minutes-oliver-macdonald

 

Artist profile - Aidan Moesby:

Aidan Moesby is a visual artist and curator whose work increasingly explores civic and personal wellbeing. His practice is based around research and response, much of which is underpinned through conversations. These may be real, overheard, visual, imaginary or even virtual. He works extensively within arts and health, especially where art, technology and wellbeing intersect.

Moesby is fascinated by how we communicate and connect with ourselves, each other and the worlds we inhabit - He produces responsive interventions in which the works serve as the catalyst for a personal or communal exploration through an internal or socially active/engaged conversation.

Click here to read Aidan's profile in full.

 

We are seeking a Project Manager for NDACA:

The National Disability Arts Collection & Archive is a Heritage Lottery Fund project, delivered by Shape Arts, which will bring to life the heritage story of the Disability Arts Movement, a radical arts movement in which a group of disabled people and their allies broke barriers, helped change the law and made great culture about those struggles.

We are currently looking for the right Project Manager to deliver NDACA - click here for a more detailed read & apply by 8 May.

Time to get registered

Register, vote - and have your say!

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#CripTheVote is "geared towards both engaging the disability community in discussing the policies and politics that will most impact our lives but also to use our collective power to amplify the community's voice on these issues."

Click here to view the latest email newsletter from Shaping Our Lives, which explores the forthcoming General Election.

Artist Opportunity

Opportunity for artists with the Oriel Davies Gallery...

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I am writing from Oriel Davies Gallery in Newtown, to let you know that we have an exciting opportunity for new artists.

Litmus is a programme which offers early career artists the chance to develop and present their work through spaces across Wales and the Welsh Borders.

Here at Oriel Davies, we have a Litmus space which is small and yet versatile, measuring at 158cm (w) x 212cm (l) x 219cm (h). 

We have two Litmus spaces which we would like to take applications for - artists are encouraged to submit applications showing ambition, experimentation and creative risk taking as part of a commitment to developing their creative practice.

You can find more information about these places and how to apply by visiting: http://www.orieldavies.org/en/news/articles/litmus-open-call-parts-2-3

Creative Technologist

Job opportunity for a Digital Artist/Creative Technologist...

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Rural Media is currently recruiting for a Digital Artist/Creative Technologist.

Visit https://www.ruralmedia.co.uk/about/work-us for further information about this exciting opportunioty.

The deadline to apply is May 8th - please feel free to pass on to anyone you think may be interested.

Artist Call Out

Why? Fest is looking for Midlands based Bands, Acoustic acts and Spoken word artists...

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We are looking for artists who describe themselves as from a Diverse or Disability Arts background - to perform at this 1 Day event in Birmingham on 8th July 2017.

Please circulate this information as far as you can and to any specific artists that you feel it may be of interest for!

Artists are asked to contact Robin Surgeoner, Festival Producer in the first instance via email: info@whyfestival.co.uk

To learn more about the background to Why? Fest, please take a look at www.whyfestival.co.uk

We are hoping to finalise the line up by early June so please do not hesitate to get in touch!